Updated: Nov 11, 2020
I wanted you to hear from today's guest because so many years passed with my family referring to Mom as crazy long before we were aware of Dementia or how it was affecting her brain. Unfortunately, society does the same to others that are misunderstood mentally. Mom became a high functioning woman while living with Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic depression. We normalized her highs and lows for so long we dismissed the early signs for Dementia. I believe this disorder is better understood by those who live close enough to see into the eye of the emotional storm. In just a moment, Jarett Leger will share his experience with mental health and bipolar disorder on his caregiving journey.
Jarett is an Artist of many talents including painting, photography, and filmmaking. Along his journey of pursuing multiple creative fields he has encountered many colleagues and became very close to those who struggle with mental illness. Jarett feels it goes hand in hand with the self-label of "artist". He found himself in a caregiving type positions many times by helping to prevent self-harm and self-destructive behavior of highly talented and exceptional individuals.
Caregivers often find an emotional loop which includes statements including "I have to…" This is a flag of burden, overwhelmed, and possibly a co-dependent relationship is brewing. Many of us are drawn to help others and others feel forced into the role of caregiver. Many caregivers have High agreeableness or conscientious personality who are trustworthy, high morality, Altruistic, cooperative, modest, and sympathetic. It is easy to confuse what 'we have to do' with what 'we should do' for the well-being of our loved ones.
Learning to find healthy boundaries may include a self-awareness to be able to detach from emotions in the moment to look inside for better understanding between reacting to their behaviors or being triggered to our own unresolved emotions. Over time this cycle of being triggered and then reacting made me see how I was lacking in self-compassion and self-control. Through therapy and mentors, I found areas within different relationships that did not have healthy boundaries.
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not well known. We can only speculate between a combination of genetics, environment, and altered brain structure and chemistry. If we get stuck on the idea of genetics then we lose valuable insight into the environment and potential triggers. Bipolar disorder usually appears between the ages of 15 and 24 yet persists throughout a lifetime. It is rare to be seen or newly diagnosed in very young children or adults over the age of 65.
Manic episodes may include symptoms or behaviors such as high energy, sleeplessness for days, and loss of touch with reality including hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid rage.
Depressive episodes may include symptoms such as low energy, low motivation, and loss of interest in daily activities.
A narcissistic personality disorder is also a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. I experienced many moments growing up feeling as if Mom did not care about me or my sisters but the lack of empathy is also a system of Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD).
Before you panic and wonder if this is something you should be concerned about, relax with the knowledge this can be normal from time to time for most of us. We all have good days or bad days, busy days or lazy days, productive days, or mentally blocked days. The key difference is when mood episodes last from either day to months at a time.
Overextended periods of time, wallowing in moody blues that begin to reveal suicidal thoughts warrant immediate attention for treatment. Treatment is usually lifelong and often involves a combination of medications, psychotherapy, and a lifestyle change to express energy in a healthy way or hold as peacefully as possible. This is not the type of treatment to face alone by any means. Like having a workout buddy to stay accountable to a routine, please make sure you or your loved one has a treatment buddy. Mom used to stop her meds as soon as the treatment was working because she decided she felt fine but not acknowledging she felt fine since the treatment was working. The cycle would begin over and over as we learned how to live in the eye of her emotional storm.
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Intro: Vacation Time by Khris Paradise
Outro: Misty by Khris Paradise